DUBLIN, Ireland - The Irish government is providing a major capital injection to university-based biological researchers as part of a wider program to boost the country's research capability.

The Higher Education Authority, the body responsible for coordinating the third-level education sector, announced allocations totaling IEP 162.2 million (US$217.4 million), about IEP 65 million of which is earmarked for biological sciences research. A further IEP 50 million is available under a second round of funding, which the HEA will determine by early next year.

The government is providing half the funding. The participating institutions have raised the remainder or are in the process of doing so. The allocations include a small level of project funding, but the bulk of the cash is designated for buildings and equipment.

In the field of biology, University College Dublin (UCD) is the single biggest recipient, with more than IEP 20 million budgeted for the Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, a 5,000-square-meter facility with 382 research stations, which will be spread across four adjacent buildings on the college campus.

The research at the institute will focus on three main themes: advanced biomolecular synthesis, structure and activity of biomolecules, and molecular medicine, said Paul Engel, head of the biochemistry department at UCD.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which will receive almost IEP 8.7 million, is building a clinical research center at Beaumount Hospital in Dublin, which will support "high-level sophisticated clinical investigations in patients," said Desmond Fitzgerald, head of clinical pharmacology at the college. The college is initiating a gene therapy program that will focus on cystic fibrosis and cardiovascular disease. It is building capabilities in areas such as vector technology, organosynthesis, mass spectrometry, proteomics, genotyping, and developing animal models of genetic disease to support those efforts.

University College Cork (UCC) is constructing an IEP 9 million institute for biosciences and health and food science research, according to research support officer Jean van Sinderen-Law. The research strands there include gene expression and signaling in apoptosis, biological signaling in cell survival and aging, molecular signaling in prokaryotic and eukaryotic host systems, calcium regulation and signaling in muscle and neuronal cells, cell physiology, and cell-tissue interactions in nervous system developing, aging and regeneration.

In addition, the National Microelectronics Research Centre at UCC, which is building an IEP 11 million nanotechnology fabrication facility, is planning collaborations with biotechnology researchers, according to center director Gabriel Crean.

The National University of Ireland (NUI) in Maynooth is investing almost IEP 8.9 million in a research center that will house activities in immunology and in bioengineering and agroecology, said Frank Mulligan, dean of research at the college. The immunology strand includes programs on vaccine development, the mucosal system and infectious disease, and apoptosis.

NUI in Galway is building an IEP 15.4 million biomedical engineering center that will focus on cancer, heart disease, bone diseases, kidney disease and stroke.

Trinity College Dublin, which opened a new genetics institute last year, and the Institutes of Technology at Carlow and Athlone also received smaller funding allocations for biotechnology research under the program.